Aviation Emergency Response Training Explained

Destiny Carpenter

By Destiny Carpenter
Help Team Member, Fireside Partners Inc

Posted on September 5, 2023
Building Organizational Culture blocks stacked

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are woven into the structure of many aviation companies and serve as the guideline for executing daily operations. Your employees likely know them by heart because they are used consistently and across a broad variety of contexts.

Emergency Response Plans (ERPs), however, are much more infrequently used in most organizations. When an abnormal situation disrupts your operation, is your team versed in their roles? Are they prepared to handle the emergency? Do they know what their responsibilities are?

There is a misconception that having a plan alone is sufficient to guide you through an emergency. Although having a carefully developed plan is a good start, it is not enough. Additional actions required for mastery are described below.


In addition to having a response plan, it is essential to educate your team on what their roles are, and how to accomplish them. Coordination of Emergency Response Planning is covered in 14 CFR Part 5 – Safety Management Systems, 5.27, which states that a plan must include both delegation of emergency authority and assignment of employee responsibilities. Before your organization undertakes a full-scale drill, it is crucial that your team members first know what tasks they are expected to complete, what the goals are, and where decision-making lies.

Education must take place before an active emergency. If an employee’s first exposure to the procedures in the ERP is during an accident, they will not be effective in their role. Additionally, attempting to educate on the ERP during an active drill tends to create confusion and add stress rather than build competence.

Deliberate Practice

Psychologists Gobet and Campitelli highlight that rote repetition is not the same as “deliberate practice.” Rote repetition (simply repeating a task) will not by itself improve performance. Deliberate practice consists of activities purposely designed to improve performance. They involve attention, rehearsal and repetition.

In the aviation industry, deliberate practice is most often referred to in the context of pilot training. However, this concept should be applied to your emergency response training as well. As you develop your training, you should have a clear purpose and objectives. Effective training provides your team the opportunity for individual skill building through walk-throughs of checklists, thorough review of response processes and exposure to crisis decision-making in a variety of contexts. Deliberate practice builds confidence and enhances readiness.

In addition, as part of deliberate practice, it is critical employees assigned a role within the ERP give the training their full attention. They should be fully engaged in the scenario and use the opportunity to build their skills in responding, rather than simply to “check a box.”

Finally, as you develop your training exercises, consider the scenario with statistical relevance, and forget the “worst-case scenario.” Focus on excelling in your management of the realistic before you take on the unlikely.

Continuous Improvement

The phrase “continuous improvement” is often used in reference to a Safety Management Systems (SMS) but it should not stop there. Here are a few things that every organization should do to continually improve their ERP:

  • Audit your ERP on a regular basis. This should include reviewing designated personnel, call trees and phone numbers. Have there been any changes to the contacts listed? Have there been any changes to regulatory requirements that will affect your emergency response planning? This ensures that the processes and procedures are still relevant and applicable to your operation.
  • Conduct risk assessments to determine potential emergencies. To develop a comprehensive plan and design effective training, an organization needs to understand the potential risks and hazards within its operation. Your risk assessment should also specifically seek out weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your ERP and should be reviewed periodically to ensure relevance.
  • Correct issues immediately. Vulnerabilities identified through risk assessments, while training or after an activation of your ERP should be corrected as quickly as possible. As procedures are added or changed, utilize exercises and drills to “stress test” them and ensure they provide the desired outcome. It is also vital that any updated or added procedures be run through your SMS processes.

A Plan is Not Enough

Training plays a pivotal role in your team’s effectiveness during an emergency. A plan alone is not enough, nor is rote repetition. Neither will provide your organization with the tools necessary to execute a response professionally, compassionately and successfully.

Your call to action is to explicate your ERP training. Focus on education as your launch point. As you transition to training, ensure there are abundant opportunities for deliberate practice. Lastly, understand that the job is never done. As your organization grows and evolves, your ERP must grow and evolve with it.

Fireside Partners Inc Fireside Partners Inc
Fireside Partners, Inc., is a fully integrated emergency services provider designed to provide all services and resources required to respond effectively and compassionately in a crisis situation. Dedicated to building world-class emergency response programs (ERP), Fireside instills confidence, resiliency and readiness for high-net worth and high-visibility individuals and businesses. Fireside provides a broad array of services focused on prevention and on-site support to help customers protect their most important assets: their people and their good name.

© 2023 Fireside Partners Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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